Williams Cycling opened the 2000 season with but one goal in mind; a return to Nationals and a higher place upon the championship podium. Not content with last year’s impressive fourth place finish at Nationals, the returning squad showed how determined it was to surpass that mark over the first three race weekends.
The opening of the season took place in Pennsylvania, at a weekend series of events hosted by the University of Vermont. John and Reed Wiedower ’00 began the Williams onslaught in the B race, with John sneaking into 12th place. Aimee Vasse ‘01 crashed in her first Women’s A race, but the A men raced competitively, with Aaron Applebaum ’01 and Tom LaRocca ’00 finishing 13th and 15th, just ahead of Peter Hult ’03, who was in the thick of the pack.
On the next day, J. Wiedower grabbed first place in the Bs, but subsequently blew a tire. The most impressive race, however, was the Women’s A race. While losing the pack in the first few laps, Vasse regained her confidence as she pulled up to rejoin the pack in the final laps, finishing in 11th place. In the intense men’s A race, Applebaum used his strong sprinting ability to grab eighth, while Hult took 18th.
Over the next two weeks cyclists endured long rides through the mountains of South Carolina, pausing to race in Brooks, Ga. After several top ten finishes, the Williams team returned north to race in the UMass Road Race.
The UMass course was a loop of 11 miles of rolling hills; large fields combined with poor road conditions to produce somewhat dangerous races. In the C race, Ryan Hayman ’01 began the day amidst the pack, finishing strongly despite a late crash that splintered the field. Cyclists lucky enough to avoid the carnage of a crash in the B race managed the final sprint; J. Wiedower sprinted past pros and Bs alike to take 12th. Vasse continued the scoring in the Women’s A race, taking 13th place.
However, the day turned sour in the Men’s A race, as a dropped chain sidelined Hult, while a crash took out Applebaum and forced him and the rest of the team to the nearby hospital, where his hand had to be stitched together.
Williams rebounded decisively by destroying its Division II opponents this weekend at a pair of events hosted by the University of New Hampshire. Before UNH, Williams was in sixth place for Nationals, with the top seven teams eligible.
Saturday consisted of a ten-mile loop road race, with several steep hills and an intimidating descent.The day started cold and rainy, but sophomore Britta Hult finished in 16th place in her home state. A crash sidelined Sebastian Bradley ’02 in the C race, while late muscle pain dropped Hayman in the standings.
The bad luck continued in the B field, as an early flat forced John Wiedower too far back from the pack, and though Reed Wiedower hung on gamely, he was unable to muscle into the pack after a slight gap on the largest hill. Vasse out-sprinted a UVM rider to take fifth place in the Women’s A race. In the Men’s A race, Applebaum and P. Hult shook off early mists to post impressive finishes.
While Applebaum charged with the pack, Hult fell into limbo between the break group and the pack, managing to claim ninth place. Applebaum sprinted for 19th place and more points for Nationals. The combined effort earned Williams second place on the day.
On Sunday UNH put together a points race on a 1K circuit outside New Hampshire International Speedway. While cars raced through the driving rain on the Speedway, cyclists braved the steep hill and sharp corners of a short, fast course. In the B field, the two Wiedowers attacked from the gun before finishing in 18th and 22nd, while in the Women’s A race, Vasse evoked visions of Megan Lawson ’98 as she continued to improve her position and standing. After a break of four had apparently sewn up all the points spots, Vasse tracked down one rider and blew past her to take the final points sprint and finish in fourth place, her best finish yet.
Then the mercury unexpectedly plunged 30 degrees, from sixty to below freezing, bringing snow and tremendous winds. In the Men’s A race P. Hult managed to garner 18th place, capping a great weekend. At the same time, Applebaum continually displayed his sprinting skills as he won both individual and team points in four primes.
As the race wound down, Applebaum represented Williams among only four other schools remaining in the race, all Division I powerhouses. In a bizarre turn of events though, a lone Penn State rider who had not won any points in the sprints managed to escape the pack just when a UNH rider in a solo break began to threaten to lap the pack.
This resulted in the officials declaring the pack a lap down, which handed the Penn State rider an easy fifth place finish while he had not actually won any points. The rules were debated afterwards, but ultimately Applebaum’s apparent sixth place finish was turned into ninth place, still exceedingly impressive and enough to push Williams into first place among Division II schools for the day.
With its strong showing this weekend, there is no doubt that Williams is back in the midst of the push for Nationals, and looks to decimate the field next week at the Eastern Conference Championships held in West Point.